Glock Firearms: A History of the Brand
There are a few marquee names in firearms that revolutionized the industry. Samuel Colt. John Browning. John Garand. Add to them Gaston Glock, Austrian inventor-turned-firearms-designer who upended an entire gun industry. He changed handguns forever by challenging the standard design narrative through radical innovation, applying plastic polymer technology to pistol manufacturing rather than the traditional (and much slower) method of machining each frame from steel or aluminum. But this is putting the cart before the horse. Let’s back up the bus and take a look at the humble beginnings of this firearms giant.
The Birth of a Titan
Gaston Glock was born on July 19th, 1929, in Vienna, Austria. Firearms were not his first product; he became an engineer and designed and manufactured several different items, the earliest of which were curtain rods! In the 1970s, Glock picked up contracts to manufacture field knives for the Austrian army and grenade casings, and machine-gun belt links. His original pistol was just a follow on to his other successful military contracts as the Austrian military was procuring a new standard-issue sidearm.
It is important to note that, up to this point in time around 1980, handgun and pistol technology was relatively unchanged since the 20th century when John Browning and Georg Luger had invented their revolutionary designs. The infamous M1911 remained in the service with the U.S. forces for nearly a century, and the Luger design had similar staying power with European military and police forces. American police departments still used heavy revolvers as their standard sidearm well into the 1980s.
Glock Changes Everything
The original Glock autoloading pistol brought about a genuine revolution in firearms. Glock had worked with injection molding with previous ventures, namely field knife handles and knew that polymer plastics are incredibly durable, robust, and, namely, very light. Also, polymer frames are highly cost-effective, costing a fraction of a milled frame, and still cheaper than forging alloy frames.
Polymer frames were immediately accepted; to this day, there is still a contingent of shooters who swear by metal frames despite a sharp contrast of weight. Note that people who wear a firearm for a whole shift every day quickly embraced the much lighter polymer-framed pistols.
Glock brought substantially increased magazine capacities to the firearm industry. The original Glock 17, named after his seventeenth patent and not the magazine capacity of the firearm, opted for a double-stack magazine which nearly doubled the capacity of other pistols, and was able to keep the grip relatively slim thanks to the marvel of injection molded plastics.
The other tenant of Glock’s design theory has been emulated and stands the tests of time: simplicity. On average, his pistols contain 35 parts, which are far fewer than comparable pistols. His simple striker action has far fewer moving parts than a double-action/single-action design (see Beretta 92FS). The lack of an external safety further reduces design complexity while creating a safer pistol. Unlike a traditional pistol with a firing pin block as a safety, the Glock action can only be mechanically engaged by depressing the trigger fully to the reset detent.
The Glock pistols marked a radical departure from tradition, but literally, everyone has replicated it. All of the major firearms manufacturers, along with a large number of small startups and foreign manufacturers, have outright copied his design or just modified it slightly. His lineup now includes all popular pistol calibers, including the longest-running 10mm pistol offering in the world, and has all sizes from sub-compact through full-size, and including full-size with extended slides. Glocks are used by around 60% of America’s police forces and are employed by hundreds of military forces and police forces worldwide.
Gaston Glock changed the firearm world’s entire landscape in the 1980s, revolutionizing a stagnant industry with a design that has proven incredibly reliable, simple, and as sturdy as any steel pistol in the world. They are also able to be consistently cheaper to purchase because the materials are more affordable. His pistols are lighter, offering a comfort level never before seen in a pistol, and they have proven to be supremely accurate.